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Diablo Dish — December '08


The word is that lipstick and chocolate sell big during a bad economy, which has to please Chris Blue, owner of Berkeley’s new Chocolatier Blue. The master chocolatier, the country’s only confectioner allowed to use the famous Tuscan chocolate Amedei, folds in organic cream, five-star butter, and fresh fruits from local farmers markets. Another chocolate-lover’s hangout, Bittersweet Café, is eyeing Lafayette. Until that opens, warm up with Bittersweet’s holiday-time peppermint-infused hot chocolate at its Rockridge or new Danville location. Walnut Creek’s Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe, meanwhile, has closed.

In Pleasanton, a new Italian eatery hopped into the spot recently vacated by Silver Palate. Owner Matteo Pasotto’s Amarone Cucina Italiana serves traditional Italian fare that features organic foods and a special vegetarian menu.

To bring your eco-friendly takeout, Berkeley’s Go Green Go really goes the extra mile—on bicycles, scooters, hybrid cars, and, coming soon, Smart cars. Owner Heather Kratt, partner at the company’s pilot restaurant, Bobby G’s Pizzeria, plans to expand restaurant options and delivery locations in the coming weeks.

Lafayette’s popular new Chevalier has the menu, staff, and eager eaters lined up for lunchtime, but chef-owner Philippe Chevalier says the city demands he first find 11 parking spots for his patrons. Until that elusive curbside parking is secured, you’ll have to try les moules marinières for dinner.

Despite rumors that Whole Foods’ financial struggles might keep it from opening three East Bay stores, a spokeswoman for the high-end grocer says they are still a go. Projected opening dates: early 2011 in Dublin, 2011 in Lafayette, and early 2012 in Albany. Meanwhile, Draeger’s Market was awarded the National Retailer of the Year for Wine and Spirits by Wine Spectator and Market Watch magazines.

Filling the brunch void on up-and-coming Temescal’s Telegraph Avenue are two new American-traditional eateries, Horseshoe and Aunt Mary’s Café. In August, Marc 49 owner Ramzi Faraj opened Horseshoe, which flips flapjacks and custom makes omelets any time of the day. Aunt Mary’s serves up Southern comfort food such as spoon bread on Southern greens and buttermilk pie. Also in Oakland is a “restaurant-bar-lounge-art studio-gallery-neighborhood joint” called Mua, the brainchild of artists and restaurateurs Hi-Suk and Sanju Dong. The couple opened the artists’ haven uptown on Webster, just a few minutes away from the French fusion Soizic Bistro they own on Broadway.

Pleasant Hill goes Kobe this November when a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar fills the vacant slot left by Back Forty Texas BBQ. Owner Terry Jiang, a former New York restaurateur, says his community-oriented restaurant will feature Teppanyaki-style cooking and family-style dining that’s easy on the wallet.

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